Monday, October 08, 2007

John Bruhns, Iraq Veteran

Why I fight and why we all must.
by John Bruhns (DC) · 10/07/2007 11:39:00 AM ET
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(Bumped -- This is a MUST read from John Bruhns)

As the war drums were beating for Iraq I knew something was wrong. I was paying attention to President Bush as he continually accused Saddam Hussein of possessing weapons of mass destruction and being linked to terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda. Yet, there was no solid proof that any of Bush's accusations had any validity to them. I guess if you repeat the same lies over and over again they begin to sound true. How else could Bush have tricked the nation into an unjust and unnecessary war in Iraq?

At the time I was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. It seemed as if the moment I arrived there in June 2002 the only message being sent from the top down was to be ready for war with Iraq. We trained vigorously that summer for war. And in January 2003 my unit deployed to Fort Irwin, California for a month long desert warfare training exercise. Immediately upon returning from Fort Irwin my unit received orders to deploy to Kuwait for the military buildup to topple Saddam Hussein and his government in Iraq.

We scrambled to get our gear and equipment ready for what would be the inevitable war with Iraq. It took a couple weeks to prepare, get medically screened, and write out our wills. Then we were put on standby to deploy at a moments notice.

There was a mixed sentiment among the troops I had served with at the time. For some troops Bush's word was enough for them to go to Iraq to fight and die for what they believed was necessary for our country. There were some who didn't pay attention to the politics. They felt that they were soldiers who had no other option but to go to war and take their chances. In a sense, that is what good soldiers do. I felt alone for the most part because I kept paying attention to what Bush was saying and what the UN weapons inspectors were reporting. To me it just wasn't adding up.

But before I could blink my eyes I was on the border of Kuwait and Iraq ready to invade on day one. It wasn't long before we received our attack orders and pushed into Iraq.

It was a rough ride to Baghdad. Right from the start 150,000 troops were cluttered and stacked upon each other with our vehicles breaking down due to the harsh terrain of the southern Iraqi desert. We were in the middle of nowhere and out in the open. If there were ever a time for Saddam to use his weapons of mass destruction it would have been the perfect opportunity for him. We were in the perfect location for him to attack us -- out in the open desert with no other population. He could have launched the alleged stockpile of WMD directly upon the US military and killed no one but our troops. If Bush really was convinced that Saddam had such a massive WMD arsenal why would he place us in the most vulnerable position for him to use them on us? Probably because Bush knew they did not exist otherwise he never would have allowed such a stupid battle plan to take place.

We pushed into Baghdad facing heavy resistance from the primarily Shiite populated cities in southern Iraq. It was strange being that the Shiites were Saddam's enemies who he had oppressed for decades. To me it was clear that they hated us more than Saddam because we were invaders from the west. Saddam might have been a horrible man, but we were worse in their eyes. It was frightening to realize that the people who Saddam murdered by the thousands actually preferred him to us.

My stay in Baghdad was not much different. It was very confusing because the enemy was so unidentifiable. We didn't know who we were fighting, and that made it extremely difficult to distinguish between the civilian population and the insurgents. As time goes on you stop distinguishing between the two. My perception was that we were fighting the Iraqi people who resented our presence in their country -- not Al-Qaeda as George Bush kept drilling into the minds of the American people.

We were attacked almost on a daily basis by rocket propelled grenades, AK-47 assault rifles, improvised explosive devices, and mortars. This kind of violent activity led to thousands of pre-dawn raids on Iraqi homes. And when you kick in the door you enter the homes as if you are going after Bin Laden himself. In a sense we started to treat the Iraqi people as if they are all terrorists causing them to resent us even more. In the following days of each raid violent activity would double and for some reason no one could understand why.

I participated in the training of the Iraqi Security Forces. Their training cycle was one week long and it was extremely insufficient. There was no trust factor between us and them. During their weapons qualification I can recall being told by my range NCO to stand directly behind the Iraqi soldier just in case he tried to turn the weapon on us. My instructions were to "jump him and kill him." When the training cycle was over we incorporated them into our units to accompany us on missions in order to train them. Prior to the missions we never told them where we were going because we were positive that the insurgency had infiltrated the Iraqi Security Forces. If they knew where the mission would take place they could tip off the larger insurgency element and set us up for an ambush. Almost all of them covered their faces out of fear or shame of being seen with American troops in their communities. As a rifle team leader leading a team of Iraqis wearing hoods and carrying AK-47 assault rifles down a narrow alley in Baghdad it is needless to say that my anxiety level was through the roof.

Before I left Iraq I made a promise to myself that I would do everything in my power to stop this war if I was lucky enough to make it home.

Upon honorable discharge from the US Army in February 2005 I relocated to the Washington, DC area. I immediately became a vocal critic of the war and traveled the halls of Congress going door to door hoping to share my experiences with those who empowered Bush to send us to war. For a few months it fell on deaf ears, but after a while some members of Congress began to listen.

From there on I spoke at rallies, demonstrations, town hall meetings, and on behalf of anti Iraq war candidates running for office. I joined the Democratic leadership in promoting legislation that called for an end to the war.

It's been years now and sometimes I feel out of breath and tired from screaming at the top of my lungs for end to this madness in Iraq. But we are still there and it appears that there is really no end in sight.

Even General Patraeus can't say that we are safer because of the war in Iraq. During our troop surge the Iraqi government fell apart. We have granted amnesty to Sunni militias in Anbar with American blood on their hands, and we are now arming and financing them out of desperation to stop the violence. We are doing the same for Shiite militias loyal to Al Sadr who is a mass murderer of US troops. The Iraqi government, police force, and security forces are rampant with corruption. Is this the Iraq that our troops were sent off to die for? If Bush cared the slightest bit I would love to ask him that question.

Now it has been suggested by General Petraeus that the surge has been such a success that we can bring home 30,000 troops by this summer. Really? That would mean that if there were any gains made by the surge they will evaporate almost immediately into thin air. We will be right back were we started with fewer troops in an extremely hostile environment -- The Rumsfeld Doctrine. What then? Do we have another surge? Is that possible with a broken military? OF COURSE NOT.

Bush and his loyalists in Congress won't even allow our troops to rest after mulitple deployments that go above and beyond the call of duty.

During the last Democratic presidential debate the front runners for the nomination could not even guarantee that our troops would be home by the end of their first term in 2013. For me that is just tragic to hear.

The American people want an end to this war so badly. If the politicians will not listen it is our duty as Americans to make them listen. We owe it to our country and our troops to ensure that our members of Congress no longer allow themselves to be bullied by a coward like George W. Bush. If Bush vetoes legislation for our troops and an end to the war Congress must shove it right back in his face. We must act now while there is still a chance to make Congress do their job as a co-equal branch of government and start bringing this war to an end. They need to be equally as defiant as Bush has been for the last 7 years and fight fire with fire when it comes to this President. After all, that is what we elected them to do.

I will fight for an end to this war with my last breath. We all must.

John Bruhns
Iraq Veteran

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Bonhoeffer and Americans of Conscience

October 3, 2007
Conscience and Resistance
Our Bonhoeffer Moment


The Bonhoeffer Moment of nonviolent civil resistance and disobedience to the world war being waged by the United States is clearly at hand. As Congress considers an additional $190 billion to fund the Iraq--Afghanistan war through September 2008 and as the threats of war against Iran become increasingly loud, it is time for us to learn lessons from the German resistance to Hitler, to the Nazi regime and to the war waged by the German nation-state. We must engage in the Long Resistance to this current world war, using every nonviolent means to bring about its end.

I was set to be tried on October 2 for an act of nonviolent civil resistance at the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command. The judge dismissed the charge the day of the trial. Following is the closing statement I prepared for the jury trial in Waukegan, Illinois.

Our Bonhoeffer Moment:

In 1942, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran theologian engaged in resistance work to bring about an end to the Nazi regime, penned the following lines in his letter "After Ten Years". He was in prison and under investigation when he wrote:

"We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds; we have been drenched by many storms; we have learnt the arts of equivocation and pretence; experience has made us suspicious of others and kept us from being truthful and open; intolerable conflicts have worn us down and even made us cynical. Are we still of any use? What we shall need is not geniuses, or cynics, or misanthropes, or clever tacticians, but plain, honest, straightforward men. Will our inward power of resistance be strong enough, and our honesty with ourselves remorseless enough, for us to find our way back to simplicity and straightforwardness?"


Silence is golden.

Silence is Death.

Silence in the face of our country waging a world war is complicity in the war; is complicity in the deaths of thousands of U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens; is complicity in a crime against humanity.

I chose to break the silence at the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command (MEPCOM) on July 5, 2006. I choose to break the silence today.

I chose to act at MEPCOM last July for a number of reasons. MEPCOM is the command headquarters for the system of Military Entrance Processing Stations. Each person entering the military takes their oath of enlistment at one of these stations. MEPCOM, as the command headquarters of this system, is the focal point of injustice being done to those who serve in our country's military.

I acted to oppose the injustice of stop-move orders which force service members to extend their tour of duty beyond its scheduled end date.

I acted to oppose the injustice of stop-loss orders which force service members to remain in the military beyond the agreed upon end of enlistment date.

I acted to demand that our country provide the highest quality health care for veterans and their families, as well as for all who live within the U.S.

I acted in solidarity with those members of the military who have chosen to risk prison for refusing to comply with orders to deploy to Iraq to fight in an unjust war.

I acted to demand that our country immediately withdraw from Iraq and recommit itself to rebuilding the Common Good in Iraq and in the United States-funding hospitals, health care clinics, schools, jobs programs and the like rather than funding war, death and destruction.

I acted to engage in a conspiracy of Life with Iraqi citizens suffering over these past 16 years of economic and military warfare and to act in a conspiracy of Life with U.S. soldiers, citizens and others who are engaged in nonviolent action to end the U.S. war in and occupation of Iraq.

Does this form of civilly disobedient action accomplish anything? I don't know. I believe it does, but I simply don't know within the context of a world war-the first world war begun by a democracy. For guidance, I look to those German citizens who engaged in resistance work to bring an end to the Nazi regime and to end the world war.

In 1943, German students formed the group the White Rose which advocated for the overthrow of the Nazi regime and for an end to the war. Their simple, yet profound, act was to distribute flyers advancing their positions calling for resistance to Hitler and his regime. Once discovered and arrested, they were executed by the German state. Yet 50 years later, everyone in Germany would come to know of Hans and Sophie Scholl and their comrades in the struggle to end the war and the regime.

In 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and many others were also executed by the German state for engaging in resistance activities to overthrow Hitler. Bonhoeffer, in 1939, had the option of remaining in the U.S. where he would have been able to ride out the war in the safety of academia. Instead he chose to return to Germany to participate in resistance work. Writing as a Christian theologian about his country in which the Church was a willing accomplice in crimes against humanity, Bonhoeffer stated his reason for returning:

"Christians in Germany will face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive, or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying our civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose; but I cannot make this choice in security."

Bonhoeffer knew what choice he had to make, he made it, and he paid the price for it.

Let this be our Bonhoeffer Moment of resistance to our country's world war in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere that the guns are being aimed.

The examples of Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl and Dietrich Bonhoeffer echo down through the years. In 1983, German judges and prosecutors recalled the example set by the German resistance efforts to Hitler and the Nazi regime and crimes against humanity and determined that it was their obligation to act to prevent nuclear genocide from occurring. German judges and prosecutors actively blockaded the U.S. military bases to which Pershing nuclear cruise missiles were being deployed. They acted to uphold international law even though that meant violating national law.

So does an act of entering the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command do any good? I don't know. I do know that my action did not stand alone on that day. I do know that others are engaged in active nonviolent civil disobedience to end the Iraq war. Since February 5 of this year, over 700 people have been arrested across the U.S. in actions to end the Iraq war-with many more arrests to come.

I ask you today to join with us in this conspiracy of Life. You have the opportunity today to find me guilty or not guilty. If you believe that the war in Iraq is proper and just, you should find me guilty-regardless of what the law says. If you believe the war in Iraq must be brought to an end today, you should find me not guilty-regardless of what the law says.

The choice is clear and stark. Life or Death. Not guilty or guilty. The future of the war is in your hands today. I urge you to follow your conscience-regardless of the law.

Jeff Leys is Co-Coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and a national organizer with Seasons of Discontent: A Presidential Occupation Project as well as the Occupation Project. He can be reached at:

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October 8, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
Same Old Party

There have been a number of articles recently that portray President Bush as someone who strayed from the path of true conservatism. Republicans, these articles say, need to return to their roots.

Well, I don’t know what true conservatism is, but while doing research for my forthcoming book I spent a lot of time studying the history of the American political movement that calls itself conservatism — and Mr. Bush hasn’t strayed from the path at all. On the contrary, he’s the very model of a modern movement conservative.

For example, people claim to be shocked that Mr. Bush cut taxes while waging an expensive war. But Ronald Reagan also cut taxes while embarking on a huge military buildup.

People claim to be shocked by Mr. Bush’s general fiscal irresponsibility. But conservative intellectuals, by their own account, abandoned fiscal responsibility 30 years ago. Here’s how Irving Kristol, then the editor of The Public Interest, explained his embrace of supply-side economics in the 1970s: He had a “rather cavalier attitude toward the budget deficit and other monetary or fiscal problems” because “the task, as I saw it, was to create a new majority, which evidently would mean a conservative majority, which came to mean, in turn, a Republican majority — so political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government.”

People claim to be shocked by the way the Bush administration outsourced key government functions to private contractors yet refused to exert effective oversight over these contractors, a process exemplified by the failed reconstruction of Iraq and the Blackwater affair.

But back in 1993, Jonathan Cohn, writing in The American Prospect, explained that “under Reagan and Bush, the ranks of public officials necessary to supervise contractors have been so thinned that the putative gains of contracting out have evaporated. Agencies have been left with the worst of both worlds — demoralized and disorganized public officials and unaccountable private contractors.”

People claim to be shocked by the Bush administration’s general incompetence. But disinterest in good government has long been a principle of modern conservatism. In “The Conscience of a Conservative,” published in 1960, Barry Goldwater wrote that “I have little interest in streamlining government or making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size.”

People claim to be shocked that the Bush Justice Department, making a mockery of the Constitution, issued a secret opinion authorizing torture despite instructions by Congress and the courts that the practice should stop. But remember Iran-Contra? The Reagan administration secretly sold weapons to Iran, violating a legal embargo, and used the proceeds to support the Nicaraguan contras, defying an explicit Congressional ban on such support.

Oh, and if you think Iran-Contra was a rogue operation, rather than something done with the full knowledge and approval of people at the top — who were then protected by a careful cover-up, including convenient presidential pardons — I’ve got a letter from Niger you might want to buy.

People claim to be shocked at the Bush administration’s efforts to disenfranchise minority groups, under the pretense of combating voting fraud. But Reagan opposed the Voting Rights Act, and as late as 1980 he described it as “humiliating to the South.”

People claim to be shocked at the Bush administration’s attempts — which, for a time, were all too successful — to intimidate the press. But this administration’s media tactics, and to a large extent the people implementing those tactics, come straight out of the Nixon administration. Dick Cheney wanted to search Seymour Hersh’s apartment, not last week, but in 1975. Roger Ailes, the president of Fox News, was Nixon’s media adviser.

People claim to be shocked at the Bush administration’s attempts to equate dissent with treason. But Goldwater — who, like Reagan, has been reinvented as an icon of conservative purity but was a much less attractive figure in real life — staunchly supported Joseph McCarthy, and was one of only 22 senators who voted against a motion censuring the demagogue.

Above all, people claim to be shocked by the Bush administration’s authoritarianism, its disdain for the rule of law. But a full half-century has passed since The National Review proclaimed that “the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail,” and dismissed as irrelevant objections that might be raised after “consulting a catalogue of the rights of American citizens, born Equal” — presumably a reference to the document known as the Constitution of the United States.

Now, as they survey the wreckage of their cause, conservatives may ask themselves: “Well, how did we get here?” They may tell themselves: “This is not my beautiful Right.” They may ask themselves: “My God, what have we done?”

But their movement is the same as it ever was. And Mr. Bush is movement conservatism’s true, loyal heir.

October 3, 2007
Blackwater’s Rich Contracts

It should come as no surprise that the Bush administration would take any opportunity to reward its political friends with lavish no-bid contracts. Still, there is something particularly unseemly about the munificent payments to Blackwater, the State Department’s principal private security contractor in Iraq.

With many Iraqis still seething after Blackwater guards killed as many as 17 people two weeks ago, it is evident that Blackwater and other security contractors are undermining the military’s efforts to win over Iraqis.

Now an investigation by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has underscored the lavish extent of Blackwater’s payments and its relationship to the Bush administration. The committee, which held hearings on the use of security contractors in Iraq yesterday, should investigate these links further.

Former Bush administration officials are peppered throughout Blackwater’s highest executive positions. Erik Prince, the former Navy Seal who founded the company, was a White House intern under President George H. W. Bush and has been a Republican financier since, with more than $225,000 in political contributions.

Mr. Prince’s sister, Betsy DeVos, is a former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and a “pioneer” who raised $100,000 for the Bush-Cheney ticket in 2004. Her husband, the former Amway chief executive Richard DeVos Jr., was the Republican nominee for governor of Michigan in 2006.

Mr. Prince denied yesterday that his connections had anything to do with it, but he certainly has done well under the Bush administration. Federal contracts account for about 90 percent of the revenue of Prince Group holdings, of which Blackwater is a subsidiary. Since 2001, when it made less than $1 million in federal contracts, Blackwater has received more than $1 billion in such contracts — including at least one with the State Department for hundreds of millions of dollars that was awarded without open, competitive bidding.

The Congressional investigation found that Blackwater charges the government $1,222 per day for each private military operative — more than six times the wage of an equivalent soldier. And still it uncovered instances of overcharging. It reported that an audit in 2005 by the State Department’s inspector general found Blackwater was charging separately for “drivers” and “security specialists” who were, in fact, the same people.

The fallout from Blackwater’s heavy-handed tactics is a reminder of the folly of using a private force to perform military missions in a war zone. These jobs need to be brought back into government hands as soon as practicable, and remaining private contractors placed under the jurisdiction of military law.

Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who is chairman of the oversight committee, said yesterday that if private contractors are meant to provide security on the cheap, it’s not working. “It’s costing us more money,” he said, “and I believe it’s costing us problems.” Blackwater’s contracts should spur Congress to further investigate the Bush administration’s practice of using Iraq to slip rich deals to its friends.


For the Love of Blackwater,0,6701931,full.story?coll=la-tot-topstories

From the Los Angeles Times
Iraqis tell of guards' reckless behavior
Residents of Hillah await answers and justice in the slayings of two men. They believe those responsible for the deaths were Blackwater employees.
By Tina Susman
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

October 8, 2007

BAGHDAD — The young biology student pulled his car to the side of the busy traffic circle when he saw a fast-moving line of SUVs approaching from behind. As they flew past, he recalls, the lead vehicle appeared to intentionally smash into his sedan. But the worst was yet to come.

As the convoy sped off, a gunner inside the last sport utility vehicle sprayed the traffic circle with bullets. Pedestrians ran for cover. Seated in the car closest to the SUV, student Ali Karem Fakhri Hilal thrust his hands into the air to show he was unarmed.

But four cars behind him, Hussein Salih Mohammed Rabee, a retired businessman active in a local peace committee, was fatally wounded.

Nearly two months after the Aug. 13 shooting in Hillah, 60 miles south of Baghdad, nobody has been held accountable for Rabee's death. His sons say the provincial police commander and a U.S. Army officer told them that Blackwater USA, the same company accused of killing as many as 17 Iraqis at a Baghdad traffic circle Sept. 16, was responsible. Hillah residents held a protest outside the office of an American nongovernmental agency known to use Blackwater guards, waving banners and demanding Blackwater be brought to justice.

But like most Iraqis affected by shootings involving private security firms, Rabee's relatives have hit the shield that protects the companies. It is almost impossible for Iraqis to prove who did the shooting; even if they can, the security firms claim immunity from prosecution.

The Rabee family's story shows the futility of trying to press charges against foreign companies, which have been accused of causing scores of deaths and injuries in Iraq. They operate with virtual impunity as they tear through crowded city streets. The unmarked convoys push slow-moving vehicles out of their way, fire at anyone who is perceived as a threat, and make it clear their priority is to protect their high-profile wards.

Blackwater, which guards State Department officials, the U.S. ambassador and others, has a perfect record in that regard. It has not lost a client in Iraq.

"This company killed my father and left him on the street," said one of Rabee's sons, Bahaa Hussein Salih Rabee, the head of the physics department at Babil University in Hillah.

He and another brother, Safa, a businessman living in Britain, say that they met with the provincial police commander, Brig. Gen. Qais Hamza Mamouri, and U.S. Army Lt. Col. Thomas Roth days after Rabee's death. Both expressed their condolences, but explained there was nothing they could do because of Blackwater's immunity.

"I said why? He was innocent," Safa Rabee said by telephone Friday, his voice still shaking with rage as he discussed his father's death. "He was everything to me and to my family."

Mamouri denied telling the family that Blackwater was involved.

Roth did not respond directly to questions. However, his public relations officer, Maj. Dave Butler of the Army's 4th Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, said in an e-mail response, "Based on Blackwater's ongoing investigation, we cannot comment on any incidents allegedly involving Blackwater."

Memos prepared for last week's U.S. congressional hearings into Blackwater, and based on company and State Department reports, say the three security firms under State Department contract in Iraq -- Blackwater, Triple Canopy and DynCorp International -- were involved in at least 306 shootings between Jan. 1, 2005, and April 20, 2007. Blackwater was involved in 168, DynCorp, 102, and Triple Canopy, 36.

Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell did not respond to e-mail and telephone queries about the Aug. 13, 2007, incident, which was not cited in the memos.

Two other events in Hillah were mentioned, including one on June 25, 2005, that left an Iraqi man, a father of six, dead. In that case, the Blackwater guards involved did not report the shooting and tried to cover it up, according to copies of e-mail communications at the time. The State Department recommended that Blackwater pay the bereaved family $5,000 in compensation.

Mamouri said that because of the company's high profile, Hillah residents assume that if there is a problem with a private security convoy it must be Blackwater.

But Safa Rabee, who flew to Iraq immediately after the shooting, said he hadn't heard of Blackwater until Mamouri mentioned it after his father's death. He said he took note of the name to research it on the Internet.

One State Department employee in Iraq, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said most Blackwater guards were well-behaved and simply doing the job they were hired to do: protect clients in a dangerous environment. Their duties "are not conducive to keeping everyone alive," said the official, but that does not make all Blackwater guards demons.

"They're getting this bad rap for being the guys from the Wild, Wild West."

For Iraqis, that reputation was sealed by the Sept. 16 shootings in Baghdad. Blackwater guards say they fired in self-defense, but Iraqi witnesses say the barrage of gunfire was unprovoked and typical of security companies' actions when slowed by heavy traffic.

Some Washington lawmakers are pushing legislation that would force contractors to answer to U.S. laws when operating overseas, but that won't help people such as the Rabees, or the family of Iraqi police Lt. Qusay Adil Jabir. Luay Adil Jabir says his brother Qusay was killed in June 2006 in Hillah after a convoy of SUVs fired on the marked police truck he was in.

The driver lost control, sending the truck rolling over into oncoming traffic. The crash, not the gunfire, killed Jabir. His brother says the family never learned which private security company was to blame.

"Of course, I'm mad," he said. "If it was a civilian car, maybe they might have had a reason to be suspicious of it, but it was a marked, blue and white police vehicle."

Rabee's family is equally bewildered and bitter. Rabee, 72, had retired a year earlier. His sons provided a copy of the ID card he carried from a peace committee on which he was serving.

Official documents and witness accounts say the shooting took place about 12:30 p.m. Traffic was moving slowly around the downtown traffic circle, but drivers pulled over when they saw the SUVs. They knew better than to get in the way of the convoys that frequently streaked through town, said Hilal, the biology student.

Hilal, 23, said the first SUV drove straight at him, hit his car, and then moved on.

"There was space enough for him to pass," Hilal said. "There was no reason for him to be suspicious of me."

He said he had seen such convoys fire into the air to disperse crowds, but never fire directly at cars and people as this one did.

When the shooting stopped and the convoy disappeared, people rushed toward Rabee, who had opened his car door and was slumped in the street. Blood poured from his left leg.

Bahaa Rabee rushed to his father's side after the hospital telephoned him. Even as he lay dying, Rabee was able to give a statement to police in which he described feeling bullets pelting his car. "I don't know why," he said. "I want to file a complaint."

A forensic report says he died of a gunshot wound. Burn marks on his chest show that doctors tried to revive him using a defibrillator.

Safa Rabee says the U.S. military offered him and his family financial compensation, but they do not want money. "I said, do you think $100 million can return my father? Do you think that can help?" he recalled telling the Army officer.

Hilal said the repairs to his car cost $3,500, but he also is not concerned about compensation.

"The most important thing is that justice be done, because an innocent man lost his life," he said.

A special correspondent in Hillah contributed to this report.


Independent Lens Programs

Gotta Love George and the Boys

A shameful way to 'support the troops'
10.06.07 -- 10:05AM
By Steve Benen

The 2,600 members of the Minnesota National Guard recently ended a 22-month tour of duty in Iraq, the longest deployment of any ground-combat unit in the Armed Forces. Many of its members returned home, looking forward to using education benefits under the GI bill.

For example, John Hobot, a platoon leader, said, "I would assume, and I would hope, that when I get back from a deployment of 22 months, my senior leadership in Washington, the leadership that extended us in the first place, would take care of us once we got home."

It's not working that way. The Guard troops have been told that in order to be eligible for the education benefits they expect, they had to serve 730 days in Iraq. They served 729.

Nearly half the members of one of the longest serving U.S. military units in Iraq are not eligible for a more generous military educational benefit, with some falling one day short of eligibility. [...]

All 2,600 of the soldiers, who returned this year from Iraq, are eligible for money for school under the GI Bill. But nearly half discovered they weren't eligible for a more generous package of benefits available to other soldiers.

Minnesota's congressional delegation is apoplectic, and the Army has vowed to look into the matter, but the troops are understandably suspicious that they were deliberately brought home after 729 days so the Pentagon could deny them GI Bill benefits.

Keep an eye on this one.

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